Vispi Palsetia began his career as a business process outsourcing agent. Today, he leads a much broader portfolio as the CIO of Teleperformance India and Middle East, part of a global business-operations services firm with 420,000 employees.
Having spent 23 years in the BPO industry, Palsetia has seen the sector evolve in front of his eyes. For someone who swears by the adage ‘never give up’, Palsetia counts quickly enabling work-from-home environment for thousands of employees during the pandemic as the high point of his career.
In a conversation with CIO India, Palsetia talks about, among other things, IT leadership, business-technology alignment, and building the right culture in an organisation.
CIO India: Please explain your career path. What has been your greatest career achievement?
Palsetia: I started my career in the outsourcing industry way back when BPOs entered India. I have now spent close to 23 years in this industry. It is amazing to see how far we have come and how much we have evolved. It has been an exciting and challenging journey.
Personally, the greatest achievement was undoubtedly the way we managed the pandemic. From not having a single seat operating from home to operationalising over 30,000 seats within a month, while ensuring all the relevant compliance requirements were met, was an amazing feat we managed together as a team.
CIO India: In hindsight, what would you have done differently?
Palsetia: I would have focused more on information security. We were not sure on how the work-from-home environment would pan out. Eventually, we got there with strong infosec tools and technologies, but it required far more effort than if we had focused on it right from the start.
CIO India: How do you groom the next level of leadership for the CIO role?
Palsetia: Becoming a CIO made me realise that we are only as strong as our teams. An important task for me, therefore, was to make the team increase its circle of concern. Next-generation leaders must understand business and update their skills in technology to rise up the value chain in an organisation..
CIO India: How do you ensure IT-business alignment?
Palsetia: This is not as difficult as it sounds. As a CIO, you need to have regular reviews and constant connect with your business leaders. Understand their vision for the organisation, where they want it to be in the next three to five years and align your IT strategy to match with the larger business goals.
CIO India: In the past few years, has it become easier or tougher for the CIO to get a seat at the executive table? How do you equip yourself for it?
Palsetia: A CIO must make the IT seat count. If technology is aligned with the larger goal of the organisation and is helping the organisation grow to the next level, it will be easy for a CIO to get the seat.
CIO India: How do you build motivation and the right culture in the IT department?
Palsetia: The mantra is to walk the talk. I believe people mimic their leaders. It pays to be upfront with your team and with your business. Also, upskilling and reskilling the teams and getting them to do new roles every few years is important in driving talent fungibility.
CIO India: What’s the toughest decision you’ve had to make in your IT career?
Palsetia: I would count standing by my organisation’s values, principles, and compliance against a very large customer as one of my toughest decisions.
CIO India: What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
Palsetia: Someone once told me that I’m as successful as my team. If anyone from my team is not aligned with the end goal, I will not succeed.
CIO India: What myths about technology and the CIO role would you like to debunk?
Palsetia: The biggest myth is that IT is a cost centre. I strongly believe a CIO can, and should, play a major role in enhancing the organisation’s revenue.
CIO India: What roles or skills are you finding (or anticipate will be) the most difficult to fill?
Palsetia: The industry has changed over the years. Technology is no longer just an enabler for our clients. It has to deliver value also. For technology to come across as a business differentiator, we will have to build skills in the areas of cloud, analytics, and data science.
CIO India: If you weren’t a CIO, what would you be?
Palsetia: I would be working with or leading a racing team (two wheels or four wheels). Currently, my favourite bike is the Kawasaki Ninja 1000. Of the many places I have explored in India on a motorcycle, the most adventurous was my trip to Ladakh. The trip taught me that if you love what you do, you can have fun in the most challenging situations, and that is what I experienced in Ladakh. The oxygen levels were low, the weather was cold, and there were almost no roads, but it still turned out to be a great experience.
CIO India: How does your personal life influence your professional life?
Palsetia: I’ve been married for 16 years and have two children, an older daughter and a younger son. Being a spouse and parent has been an interesting journey, and one can draw so many parallels with being an employee. On both the fronts, you must stay agile, learn, unlearn, and relearn as you grow and enter different phases.